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baby sign language and bilingual kids



 
 
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  #1  
Old December 9th 07, 01:18 AM posted to misc.kids.moderated
Karen
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Posts: 58
Default baby sign language and bilingual kids

Our daughter is now almost seven months old. She is increasingly trying
to communicate with us by utterances or gestures, which we usually don't
understand. So we would like to start teaching her sign language. The
question is - which one? We are both German but live in England. So for
her it's German at home and English at nursery, and we hope that she
will grow up to be perfectly bilingual. Should we now use signs from
British or German Sign Language? DH and I know neither, so the learning
experience for us will be the same.

My initial thought is to use BSL for the following reasons: (1) They
might start using it in nursery eventually (they are "looking into it").
(2) She lives in Britain and is more likely to meet British deaf people
than German ones, should she choose to continue with the language. (3)
There is a lot more material available on BSL.

But we will use these signs while speaking in German. Will it confuse
her language if the signs aren't German? I.e., will she never be able to
learn proper sign language if we are giving her mixed messages now?

Don't worry, we don't have a career as a sign language interpreter
planned out for her; if she's anything like her parents, she'll have
very different interests, and we'll encourage her to find her own way.
With high probability, she'll forget the signs once she's speaking. And
I doubt that we'll take this to the level of a complete language (making
her trilingual) rather than a collection of words. It would just be a
shame to mess up an opportunity, and I know a couple of bilingual kids
whose spoken languages are messed up because their parents handled it
badly.

What are your opinions? Any language experts out there? Or can you point
me to a website, newsgroup or forum that could provide information on
this issue?

TIA,
Karen

  #2  
Old December 11th 07, 04:25 AM posted to misc.kids.moderated
[email protected]
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Posts: 10
Default baby sign language and bilingual kids

On Dec 8, 8:18 pm, Karen wrote:


What are your opinions? Any language experts out there? Or can you point
me to a website, newsgroup or forum that could provide information on
this issue?


None of my kids used signs to communicate as babies (other than maybe
one or two). I tried with my third, but he wasn't interested. But,
what I've heard is that learning a "real" sign language is not optimal
for babies. It can be too complicated, and many of the signs require
more dexterity than a baby will have. Here in the US, there is a book
called Baby Signs that is quite popular. It presents a "language" of
signs based on American Sign Language, but which uses many simpler
signs for things that would be hard to sign in ASL, or for which the
sign might be non-intuitive (and thus harder for parents to
remember). The criteria for what make a "good" sign differ when the
goal is to be part of a full-time, life-long communication system,
versus something for babies to use to communicate before their speech
catches up with their expressive ability. (For example, a Kangaroo
sign made by bouncing the torso up and down probably wouldn't be a
great sign for an official sign language, but would be perfect for
toddlers who can't yet say "kangaroo")

I don't know if there are analogous systems based off of either the
German or English sign languages. But you might want to check out the
Baby Signs book anyhow for hints on how to teach it, and suggestions
as to how you might choose or invent the best signs for your child. I
wouldn't worry about her learning a real sign language unless you know
she will be in a childcare or school situation with deaf children
sometime soon.

Good Luck!
--Robyn

  #3  
Old December 13th 07, 03:02 PM posted to misc.kids.moderated
Karen
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Posts: 58
Default baby sign language and bilingual kids

wrote:

But you might want to check out the
Baby Signs book anyhow for hints on how to teach it, and suggestions
as to how you might choose or invent the best signs for your child. I
wouldn't worry about her learning a real sign language unless you know
she will be in a childcare or school situation with deaf children
sometime soon.

Thank you for your thoughts, Robyn. I'm coming to the same conclusion.
Complicated signs are just impractical, and will take longer to learn,
which defeats the purpose. At least in the beginning, signs will have to
be one-handed, as I'm usually holding my baby or a utensil (spoon etc)
in the other hand. So this already favours the American sign for milk
over the British one...
Anyway, we'll see how it goes and whether she shows any interest. I
don't think she has noticed anything different yet. But she has started
to make a funny gesture a couple of days ago (putting the back of her
hand to her mouth and wriggling her fingers while making some sounds),
and I'm still trying to find out whether it's a sign (bored? wants to be
breastfed?) or she's just playing. She's usually complaining a little
while doing it, but she doesn't look at me, so that makes me think it's
not an attempt of communication after all. We'll see :-).

Karen

  #4  
Old December 13th 07, 11:12 PM posted to misc.kids.moderated
Penny Gaines[_2_]
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Posts: 124
Default baby sign language and bilingual kids

Karen wrote:
[snip]
Anyway, we'll see how it goes and whether she shows any interest. I
don't think she has noticed anything different yet. But she has started
to make a funny gesture a couple of days ago (putting the back of her
hand to her mouth and wriggling her fingers while making some sounds),
and I'm still trying to find out whether it's a sign (bored? wants to be
breastfed?) or she's just playing. She's usually complaining a little
while doing it, but she doesn't look at me, so that makes me think it's
not an attempt of communication after all. We'll see :-).


That's how the signs I used with my baby developed: she seemed to be
making certain gestures when she wanted someting, and I used/encouraged
those particular gestures back.

--
Penny Gaines
UK mum to three

 




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